Genuine Remedies And Suggestive Exaggeration

The story of the suggestive use of drugs shows us many suggestions

employed even by distinguished physicians, men whose work is eminently

rational and has lived long after their time. In fact, very few, even

of the most distinguished physicians, have failed to extol remedies

which later proved to be quite ineffectual. Hippocrates felt quite

sure that an external application of snake skin was a cure for all

forms of that chronic skin manifestation, lichen. Pythagoras declared

that anise seed held in the hand was an excellent remedy for epilepsy.

These are only examples which serve to show how much suggestion has

been used unconsciously by the medical profession. The sensation

produced by the touch of the viper's skin was sufficient in some

patients to bring about a change in the circulation in the skin, or

perhaps a distinct modification of the nerve impulses on which trophic

conditions in the skin depend, and this may have produced some cures

on which Hippocrates founded his recommendation. We know that the skin

can be unfavorably affected directly through the nervous system, and

there is no good reason for thinking that it may not also be affected

favorably. In our own day we have seen the suggestive influence of an

operation act as a remedy in epilepsy and have lauded it for a time.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Pythagoras saw, as he thought,

the strong scent of the anise seed act favorably. Both of these

conclusions as to the causative agency at work were wrong, because it

was suggestion and not the operation in most cases, nor the anise in

any case, which caused the improvement.

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